Football is in the Air:
There was excitement in the air at Lambeau Field yesterday as one of the most anticipated free agent visits of training camp took place just hours ago. Speculation, tension, and anticipation swirled over whether or not free agent linebacker Ahmad Brooks would be offered a contract and become the newest member of the Green Bay Packers. Packers general manager Ted Thompson, by nature, exudes patience with the development of his younger players and likes to refrain from the signing of high priced, big name free agents.
The Packers had not made a big splash in the free agent market since the 2014 off season when they inked future hall of fame line backer Julius Peppers to a three-year contract. The 2017 off season started off slow, and Ted Thompson made the difficult decision to let TJ Lang, Julius Peppers, and Jared Cook sign else where. Just when his prognosticators were ready to bury him, Ted Thompson pulled a rabbit out of his hat and signed Martellus Bennett, Lance Kendricks, and Jahri Evans to contracts. In a matter of days, Thompson went from a goat to a hero, by giving quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the keys to drive one of the best Packer offenses in recent years.
The Impact of the Ahmad Brooks Signing:
The Packers defense has been considered by many to have improved this offseason, but still remains unproven in certain areas. To make matters worse, the linebacking core has been inconsistent and injury prone for the last few years. Week 3 of the preseason saw Clay Matthews and Jayrone Elliot leave the game with injuries, further depleting an already injured group of pass rushers. With the inconsistent defensive play of recent memory, coupled with the injury history of Clay Matthews and Nick Perry, Packer nation was hopeful that yesterday’s meetings with Ahmad Brooks would go well.
In a somewhat un-Ted Thompson-like move, the Packers bolstered their depth at the linebacker position by inking the 33-year-old Ahmad Brooks to a 1-year deal that could pay him as much as $5 million throughout the 2017 season. The move was exactly the jolt that the Packers line backing core needed. Brooks will be a key edge rusher for the Packers, who can be the difference between putting pressure on the opposing quarterback and sacking the opposing quarterback. The extra pressure that will be applied to opposing offenses by the outside linebacking core should provide the Packers secondary with a buffer, by making opposing quarterbacks rush themselves into throwing the ball away as well as making poor throws and decisions.
Finally, Brooks’s signing will provide the Packers linebacking core with much-needed versatility in a variety of packages. There could be some scenarios where Nick Perry and Ahmad Brooks play outside linebacker moving Clay Matthews back to inside linebacker, where he has excelled in recent years.
From the standpoints of roster flexibility and versatility, the Green Bay Packers signing of Ahmad Brooks makes perfect sense. Brooks’s strengths and solid play should be able to fit right into the defensive game plan moving forward into the week 1 preparation and beyond.
This signing, more importantly, signifies that the Packers are adopting an “all in” mentality for the upcoming season. With Aaron Rodgers set to turn 34 at seasons end, it is time for the Packers to adopt a Patriot like mentality and target two to three impact free agents every offseason moving forward, and sign them to contracts in which they can cut ties with them after a year or two of solid contributions.
Adopting this short term mercenary like approach to free agency ensures that the proper salary cap figures are in place when the Packers core players like Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams need to be locked up to long term deals. This also encourages Ted Thompson to continue to allocate most of the excess cap space from the long term deals; on shorter term deals with impact players who are looking for that super bowl ring to cap off an already successful NFL career.
With this in mind, there is plenty to be excited about for this upcoming season. Ted Thompson clearly has improved a team that was just 60 minutes away from playing for a super bowl. The acclimation of every free agent signing to the system, as well as the development of rookie and second-year players can be the difference in whether the Packers will finally be able to win a second super bowl during the Rodgers era.——————
David Michalski is a recent college graduate from Princeton New Jersey who has been a life long Green Bay Packers fan. Like the great Vince Lombardi, he values God, family, and the Green Bay Packers in that order. You can follow him on twitter at @kilbas27dave